IndyBar: Indianapolis Bar Association Statement on Judicial Criticism

The Indianapolis Bar Association is aware of recent statements that have been made regarding the Marion County criminal justice system and specifically in regard to pre-trial reform. In these statements, Marion County judges have been criticized for not publicly responding to the concerns expressed, and their lack of a response has been misconstrued as an attempt to evade these issues. Indiana judges are required by the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct Rule 1.2 to “act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.” To that end, Rule 2.10 precludes judges and their court staff from making any public statements that “might reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness of a matter pending or impending in any court, or make any nonpublic statement that might substantially interfere with a fair trial or hearing.”

Silence by the judiciary to public criticism is not a sign of acquiescence, indifference, or disdain regarding the opinions asserted, but rather is a symbol of the judiciary’s steadfast respect for the rule of law and commitment to judicial ethics. It is inappropriate for a judge to debate the merits of a pending case in the press or on social media.

Our Constitution provides individuals with the right to free speech, and we encourage constructive conversation among members of the community regarding the judicial system to bring greater understanding to these issues and to build upon the important work being done each day in our criminal justice system. It is equally important to note that our judges have an obligation to refrain from participating in that discourse when doing so might undermine and jeopardize the rights of individual litigants. At the Indianapolis Bar Association, we provide a positive forum for respectful discourse and education regarding the judicial process, and we look forward to continuing to do so in the future.•

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